Yudhistira was the eldest brother of the 5 Pandavas and a main character in the Mahabarata. He was known for his righteousness, respect of elders, and honesty. He was also known as Dharmaraja.
- Father: Pandu
- Godly Father: Yama
- Mother: Kunti
- Brother: Bhima, Arjuna, Sahadeva, Nakula
- Wife: Draupadi (Panchali), Devika
- Sons: Prativindhya, Yaudheya
- Daughter: Suthanu
Once, King Pandu went hunting. He saw two dear and killed them with his arrows. As soon as he killed them, they turned into a rishi and his wife. Pandu was shocked. He realized that the two dear had been Kindama rishi and his wife in the form of dear. Kindama rishi was really mad and cursed Pandu that whenever he engages in intercourse with any women, he will die. A moment after, Kindama and his wife died from pain.
Pandu was really upset since he had killed a Brahmin who was a rishi. He decided to leave his post as king of Kuru kingdom. He and his two wives named Kunti and Madri left for the jungle. Pandu’s older blind brother, Dhitrastra was then coronated as king of Kuru. Dhitrastra them married Gandhari, the princess of Gandhara.
Due to his curse from Kindama rishi, Pandu could not have children. He was really upset. When she was small, Kunti was given a boon that she could have any children with any deva. When Kunti told Pandu this, he was overjoyed.
Pandu wanted to have a child who had the qualities of righteousness, justice, truth, and sincerity and would never commit a crime. He also knew that his child would have rights over the throne of Hastinapura, as he would be the first-born prince of the next generation. He told Kunti to invoke Yama, also called Dharmaraja, who was the god of truth and righteousness.
Kunti then invoked Yama, who appeared there instantly. When the child was born, a voice from the sky said that the boy shall be named Yudhistira and will become a great emperor.
Her second child was Bhima. He was the son of Vayu deva. Her third child was Arjuna from Indra deva. She also taught this boon to Madri. Madri had twins named Sahadeva and Nakula. They were the sons of the Ashwins. These five were called the five Pandavas.
Once, Pandu engaged in intercourse with Madri, forgetting about his curse. Immediately, Pandu died. Madri was so heartbroken that she also killed herself. Kunti and the five Pandavas were really depressed. A funeral was performed for Madri and Pandu. Kunti and the 5 Pandavas were brought to Hastinapura, the capital of the Kuru kingdom, by Vidura and Bhishma.
The Pandavas were given a horrible greeting by the 100 Kauravas, the sons of Dhitrastra and Gandhari. Shakuni, Gandhari’s brother, had poisoned their mind and turned them against the Pandavas. Slowly an enmity developed between the Pandavas and Kauravas. Whenever the Pandavas and Kauravas played games together, the superior capabilities of the Pandavas would always show.
The Kauravas became frustrated with the Pandavas, especially Bhima. They made many schemes to end the lives of Bhima. But ultimately, all of these ploys were unsuccessful.
Dhitrastra realized that the Pandavas and Kauravas were wasting their time with useless activities. He appointed Kripacharya, the royal preceptor, as the teacher of the princes. He taught the princes how to use weapons.
After the princes completed their short education with Kripacharya, Dhitrastra wanted to give the princes a higher education. He started searching for a teacher who was a master at weaponry.
Meanwhile, Dronacharya, the son of Bharadwaja, and his family had recently moved to Hastinapura. They stayed in the house of Kripa. Ashwastamma often helped Kripa give lessons about weaponry to the princes.
Once, the Pandavas and Kauravas were playing ball outside the palace. The ball accidentally fell into a nearby well. Everybody tried to take it out but it was to deep. At that moment, Drona arrived at the scene. He said, “If you promise me dinner today, then I shall remove this ball from the well and this ring which I am going to drop.”
Saying that, Drona dropped his ring into the well. He then threw a blade of grass at the ball and pierced it. He then pierced the blade of grass with another blade of grass and continued this until a chain was formed. Using the chain, he easily removed the ball. He then removed the ring by using an arrow.
The Pandavas were astonished by this impossible feat. They quickly went and told Bhishma about what had happened. Bhishma instantly knew that his was none other than Dronacharya. Drona went to the palace and personally met Bhishma. He told Bhishma about all that had happened. Bhishma, who had been searching for a teacher for the princes, asked Dronacharya to become their teacher. Dronacharya readily agreed.
Bhishma built a house for Drona to live in. The Pandavas and Kauravas were taken to this house and their education commenced. Dronacharya imparted scriptural and combat knowledge to the Pandavas and Kauravas. Yudhistira became adept at chariot-fighting and using the spear.
In a short time, the education of the Pandava and Kaurava princes was complete. To display their skills to the Kuru elders, Dronacharya hosted a tournament. A grand stage and hall was constructed. The day of the demonstration arrived and the entire royal family and the citizens gathered in the arena. The princes entered one-by-one and each exhibited their skills. In this tournament, Karna would enter the epic and he would display his archery skill, challenging Arjuna.
When the Pandavas and Kauravas returned from their studies at Drona’s ashram, they had grown into young adults. As a token of thanks, the Pandavas and Kauravas would have to give Dronacharya a gurudakshina. Drona said that for gurudakshina he wanted them to defeat the Panchalas and their king Drupada. The Kauravas first attacked but were defeated and came back, fleeing the city. Thus, the Pandavas attacked. Yudhistira stayed back while Arjuna, Bhima, and the twins raced into the city. With Sahadeva and Nakula protecting their flanks, Bhima annihilated the Panchala army while Arjuna easily captured Drupada. The Pandavas presented Drupada in front of Drona. Drupada was forced to give the northern half of his kingdom to Drona and Ashwastamma.
After the princes came back from Panchala, Yudhistira was appointed the Crown Prince of the Kuru kingdom. Within days of taking charge, Yudhistira virtuous conduct and calm disposition was evident. He perfectly governed the court and already outshone the ruling style of his father Pandu.
Meanwhile, the other 4 Pandavas left for further education from various people. Bhima went to Balarama, Arjuna learned to Agnivesha, Sahadeva learned from Brihaspati, and Nakula continued his education with Drona.
At this time, Yudhistira married Devika, the daughter of King Govishana of Sivi. From her, Yudhistira had a son named Yaudheya. Because of his mother’s name, he was also called Devaka.
After his four brothers had returned, Yudhistira decided to begin various military campaigns to recover the lost land of King Pandu. During his reign, Pandu had annexed various places, including Vatsa, Mithila, Kashi, and Suhma. He even killed Jarasandha’s predecessor and conquered Anga. With all these new territories, there was a constant flow of gold into Hastinapura. But with the weak reign of Dhitrastra, the situation had reverted back to the pre-Pandu reign. All of the territories and viceroyalties had been lost.
One of these kingdoms was Sauvira. Under Dhitrastra’s rule, a powerful king rose to power and took Sauvira from Kuru. This king was really capricious and powerful. He performed a three-year yagna, which kept many Gandharvas as bay. Because his yagna had cost a lot, the king had imprisoned Subala, the father of Shakuni and Gandhari and a junior prince of Gandhara, who had become a rich trader at Sauvira.
Yudhistira had heard of how the king of Sauvira had imprisoned Subala. He told Arjuna to go on a western military campaign and conquer Sauvira. Arjuna killed the Sauvira king and freed Subala. Sauvira once again came under Kuru rule.
The House of Lac- The House of Death
After four years, Dhitrastra and Duryodhana couldn’t tolerate Yudhistira being crown prince anymore. “Father, we must do something. The citizens are loving Yudhistira as their prince. If this continues, Yudhistira will become king soon and we will have to serve him!”
“I know what we have to do. If we send them away somewhere, then I can rise to power. And we can try to kill them at that place. But even if they survive, I will have already risen to power,” Duryodhana said.
Duryodhana and Dhitrastra decided to send them to Varnavrata. Dhitrastra easily convinced Yudhistira to go to Varnavrata. Kunti and the Pandavas stayed at a palace at Varnavrata for a few days. The palace was called Lakshagriha and it was made out of quickly flammable materials. Their plan was to have Purochana, one of Duryodhana’s trusted ministers, burn the palace one night so that the Pandavas would burn in the palace. When Purochana did this, the Pandavas and Kunti barely eascaped. Vidura, who was waiting near Varnavrata, helped them cross the Ganga river and advised them to live in the forest for a while. The Pandavas and Kunti followed his advice. In Kuru kingdom, everybody thought that the Pandavas had died. Because everybody thought the Pandavas were dead, Govishana adopted Yaudheya.
During their forest life, Arjuna in the disguise of a Brahmin, won Draupadi, the princess of Panchala at her swayamvara. When Arjuna led Draupadi to Kunti, he said “I brought something”. Kunti, who was not paying attention unknowingly said to share between the five. When Kunti saw that Arjuna meant that he had brought Draupadi as a wife, Kunti was shocked. The five Pandavas were forced to all marry her since Yudhistira refused to disobey his mother.
After four to five years of exile, the Pandavas, Draupadi and Kunti returned to Hastinapura.
Indraprastha and Rajasuya Yagna
Dhitrastra and Bhishma decided to give a part of Kuru kingdom to the Pandavas. They gave the Pandavas a region called Khandavprastha. This region was every infertile. It was hard to grow crops here. The Pandavas still made this land into a beautiful city called Indraprasta.
During this time, Prativindhya was born to Yudhistira and Draupadi. Yudhistira was 40 when Indrprastha was founded and Prativindhya was born. Five years later, when Yudhistira was 45, a daughter named Suthanu was born to them.
Yudhistira decided to perform the Rajasuya yagna when he was 77 years old. His 4 brothers went and defeated all the kingdoms of India. He completed the yagna successfully.
One year after Yudhistira’s yagna, Duryodhana and Shakuni made another cruel plan. They invited the Pandavas and Draupadi to Hastinapura (capital of Kuru) for a gambling game. Not knowing of the cruel plan, the Pandavas accepted. The Pandavas and Draupadi went to Hastinapura. Shakuni, with his magical dice, made the Pandavas loose everything, including their wealth, jewelry, chariots, Indraprasta and lots more. Soon Yudhistira also lost his brothers and himself.
In the end, Dushasana dragged Draupadi to the court and attempted to disrobe her. Krishna saved Draupadi by continuing to magically add more to her clothing. After a long time. Dushasana gave up. In the end, it was decided that the Pandavas would go into exile for 12 years and incognito for 1 year. If they were identified during incognito they would repeat they exile and incognito.
Exile and Incognito Year
The Pandavas immediately went to Kurujangala forest, where they met Krishna and other Pandava allies. After staying at Kurujangala for a few months, they stayed at Dwaitavana for 1 year. Here, they met Markandeya Rishi. Then, while Arjuna did penance for the Pashupashastra for 4 years, the Pandavas stayed at the Kamyaka Forest.
Then, while Arjuna was at Swarga, the Pandavas went on a 5-year pilgrimage to the Himalayas. They met Vrishaparva, Nara-Narayana, Kubera, Arishtasena, Lomasha, and other great figures. They soon reached Gandhamadhana Parvata.
When Arjuna returned at the beginning of the 11th year, the Pandavas started going back south and soon arrived back at Kamyaka Forest. Here, they meet Krishna, Satyabhama, and Markandeya Rishi.
They soon arrived at a region called Sairisaka. The made a hut over there. One day, the Pandavas went hunting. They left Draupadi alone with sage Dhaumya and the great ascetic Trinavindu. Jayadratha, who happened to be passing Sairisaka noticed Draupadi. With Jayadratha was Kshemankara (King of Trigarta), 12 kings of Sauvira, Jayadratha’s brothers, Suratha (brother of Kshemankara) and Suratha’s son who was named Kotikasya. Jayadratha kidnapped Draupadi and went away from there.
When the Pandavas got to know about this after they returned, they ran after the tracks of Jayadratha and his followers’ chariots. In the fight that happened, Nakula killed Suratha, Yudhistira killed Kshemankar and Arjuna killed all 12 kings of Sauvira. Jayadratha started to run away. The Pandavas ran after him. When they caught up, Bhima was about to kill Jayadratha, but Yudhistira told Bhima to spare Jayadratha. Bhima eventually shaved Jayadratha’s hair as an insult.
Once, all the Pandavas and Draupadi got really thirsty. Nakula went to fetch water for them. He found a small lake. Before he could take some water, a voice stopped him. It said,” Halt. You may only drink water from this lake if you answer my questions.” Nakula ignored the voice and drank water. Instantly, he collapsed to death. The rest of the Pandavas got worried, as Nakula hadn’t come for a long time. Sahadeva went to find Nakula. He found Nakula dead near the lake. He was shocked. When he tried to drink water, the voice again stopped him. Sahadeva ignored the voice and also died. When Yudhistira sent Arjuna and then Bhima, the same thing happened to them. They ignored the voice and died.
Yudhistira now got really worried. He left Draupadi and went to find his brothers. He found them all lying dead near the lake. He was shocked and really upset. He went to get a drink of water. Before he could drink, the voice stopped him. It said,” You must answer my questions to drink this water.” Yudhistira replied,” Ask me your questions. I will answer” A yaksha appeared in front of Yudhistira. He asked 3 questions, which Yudhistira answered successfully. The yaksha was impressed and said,” Yudhistira. I will one of your brothers alive again. Which brother do you want alive again”. Yudhistira replied,” Sahadeva because he is a son of Madri. I am a son of Kunti. Then a son of Madri and Kunti will be alive.” The yaksha was impressed at Yudhistira. He made all four of Yudhistira’s brothers alive again. They then took water from the lake and went back to Draupadi.
When it was time for the year of incognito, the Pandavas made a list of kingdoms they could stay in disguise in. They finally decided to stay in Matsya kingdom. Each Pandava and Draupadi disguised themselves as someone and took up an occupation. Yudhistira became Kanka. He was an advisor of Virata (King of Matsya).
Duryodhana and Susharma (King of Trigarta) did a combined attack on Matsya. This was because Duryodhana had guessed that the Pandavas were at Matsya. Arjuna, in disguise as Brihanalla, defeated the entire Kuru army alone while Virata and his army defeated Susharma and the Trigartas. When Uttara and Brihanalla returned, Virata, not knowing that Brihanalla had defeated the Kurus, started bragging to Yudhistira about his son destroying all the Kurus, during a dice game. Yudhistira said that Brihanalla had defeated the Kurus. Virata got angry and threw the dice at Yudhistira face, whose nose started bleeding. When Uttar told Virata the truth, he immediately apoligized.After the war, since their incognito year was over, the Pandavas revealed their real identity to Virata. He was really shocked.
Duryodhana refused to give the Pandavas Indraprastha back after the exile. He also ignored all peace treaties. Hence, war was declared. The war occurred at the battlefield of Kurukshetra and lasted 18 days. The Pandavas won the war. Yudhistira was 92 when the war occurred.
In the war, Yudhistira killed:
|Warrior Killed:||Day Killed:||Kingdom:|
|Shalya’s Younger Brother||18th||Madra|
Yaudheya didn’t participate in the Mahabharata war. Prativindhya was killed by Ashwastamma mercilessly on the 18th day while sleeping. When Kunti told the Pandavas that Karna was their brother after the war, Yudhistira cursed all the women on Earth that they would never be able to keep secrets.
Later Life and Death
After the war, Yudhistira performed an Ashwamedha yagna. After some time, the Pandavas and Draupadi left for their last journey. Yudhistira was 154 years old at this time. They went on a final pilgrimage to the Himalayas. Along the way, Draupadi fell to her death. Then Sahadeva fell to his death. After that, Nakula fell to his death. Then, Arjuna and Bhima also fell to death. They were being dragged down by all their sins. Only Yudhistira survived till the end. A cat that had been following them the entire time, turned into Yama. Indra then came to take Yudhistira to svarga. When Yudhistira got to svarga he asked Indra,” Where are my brothers.” “They are in Naraka (hell),” Indra replied. Yudhistira requested Indra to take him to Naraka as his brothers were there. Indra was impressed and told Yudhistira that it was a test. Indra then took Yudhistira back to svarga where he met his brothers, Draupadi, Karna, and his enemies.
Yudhistira was really righteous. He never spoke a lie in his life. He also always respected his elders and their wishes.
Yudhistira was really good at wielding the spear and driving and handling a war chariot. Yudhistira was really good at governing a kingdom as well.